In the same way that an IT team has configuration choices to make when they put together the “tech stack” that meets the scale and security needs of the business, L&D teams have the unique opportunity to create truly customized “learning stacks” to meet the ongoing training and development needs of their workforce.
For many project managers or procurement leads, this process begins by focusing on the type of tool that is needed. For example, an organization might decide to upgrade or replace their existing Learning Management System (LMS) with a new LMS. While this enables the organization to improve their learning tools one component at a time, the “replacement part” approach prevents the organization from developing and deploying a modernized and integrated end-to-end learning tech strategy. Additionally, this “replacement part” approach often results in fragmented data assets, making usable and unified learning analytics near impossible.
Instead of looking at a learning tech stack as a series of individual tools, learning and development teams are beginning to look at the learning tech stack as an ecosystem that can be connected using an integrated data-driven approach.
LRPs, LRCs, and the LRS
As organizations look to modernize their learning ecosystem with a more holistic approach, it is necessary to evaluate not only your tools’ feature sets and capabilities, but understand how they produce, consume, and interact with data. That’s where looking at our learning stack from a new perspective comes in. Instead of evaluating by type of tool, let’s define our learning ecosystem components from the perspective of the data they create and the way they interact with that data.
The Learning Record
A learning record is a data statement that records a learning event. For example, a learning record can be produced when you register for a class, complete an assessment, or participate in a discussion forum. Any learning activity with a digital footprint has the potential to produce a learning record and contribute to your learning profile. When collected over time, all of your learning records can provide a full history of your learning experience. Learning records are also known as xAPI statements.
Learning Record Providers (LRPs)
Pretty much any learning tool or technology that you use generates data. When that data is produced in a standardized, interoperable way as an xAPI learning record, the data source is considered a learning record provider (LRP). Some LRPs produce xAPI learning records as part of their built-in capabilities. Learning tools that do not natively produce xAPI learning records can be converted to LRPs through data integrations, transforming their native data format to meet the xAPI learning record format. Some examples of LRPs include:
Learning Record Store (LRS)
Once your data sources are generating learning records, it all has to go somewhere! A learning record store is a specialized database where your xAPI learning records are captured and stored. The LRS collects the data from the LRPs and immutably stores that data for immediate and future use. You can think of the LRS as the single source of truth, or data hub, for your modern learning ecosystem.
Learning Record Consumers (LRCs)
Once you’ve collected data from your LRPs into an LRS, it’s time to put it to work. A learning record consumer is any application that ingests the data collected in the LRS and uses or applies it in some way. LRCs can come in many forms, from dashboards used to visualize the xAPI learning records collected, to content or workflow recommendation applications, to customized notification systems. While some organizations will make custom LRCs based on their business needs, the number of LRCs on the market is growing. Some examples of LRCs include:
When we take this data-centric approach to evaluating the tools in our learning stack, we’re able to better see how each component works together, creating an end-to-end learning tech strategy. While this is just one way to build a learning tech strategy, it keeps us focused on the learning experience we want to create for our learners, rather than just the tools we think that we need to have.